3 June 2010

Cuban Five

According to a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. Government violated the Smith-Mundt Act, by funding activities to influence public opinion with regard to the Cuban Five, thus influencing the jury pool and calling into question their convictions. It has long been known that the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid supposedly independent journalists to write stories about Cuba and the Cuban Five in the Miami press during the period when the government arrested and prosecuted the Cuban Five. If the U.S. government was secretly paying supposedly independent journalists to produce stories supportive of the government's prosecution of the Cuban Five, it is highly plausible that they would have affected the jury pool as well as the sitting jury in the case of the Cuban Five. This raises very serious concerns.

I'm familiar with how Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld used various contractors to fabricate stories for the Iraqi press during the early days of the second Iraq War. Likewise, I know about how in the run-up to that war, stories about Iraq's WMD were placed in foreign newspapers and then strangely enough found their way back, via the Internet, to U.S. audiences. This, too, is a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act which constructs a legal firewall between such activities, i.e., the U.S. Government can officially propagandize foreign audiences but not the American public. My familiarity with these instances of government activity leads me to believe that what the BBG is alleged to have done, may indeed be the case.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is currently the plaintiff in the committee v Broadcasting Board of Governors, Civil Action No. 09-01713 before the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. The principal claim is that the U.S. public has a right to know about matters involving improper domestic propaganda as well as whether the government compromised the fundamental right to a fair trial of the Cuban Five. A petition for habeas corpus on behalf of one of the Five, Geraldo Hernandez, sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years inprison is due on 14 June 2010; thus, the need for swift justice if thesecharges are accurate.

The New York Times, among other outlets reported on the story of reporters taking money from the US Government back in 2006, but the Committee is seeking to determine the identities of other journalists who participated in the program through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The BBG, backed by the USG,is trying to kill any further attempts at exposure.

One of the journalists, Enrique Encinosa, is the man who in an interview in Miami Beach in 2005 regarding the murder of an Italian citizen in aseries of hotel bombings in Havana supposedly masterminded by Luis Posada Carriles, had this to say: "I personally think it's an acceptable method. It's a way of damaging the tourist economy. The message that one tries to get across is that Cuba is not a healthy pace for tourists. So, if Cubais not a healthy place for tourists because there's a few windows being blown out of hotels, that's fine."

by Lawrence Wilkerson

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